Each dawn, the world is birthed anew, the sun crowning like a baby's head in the east. Sophie was born at dawn, flailing her arms from my stomach and screaming. The screaming was a good sign, the midwife told me, from some nondescript place in the operating room. I was heavily drugged, but understood that the baby was too blue, and I couldn't see her until she was pink.
Her blood gas levels began to rise a few hours later, and they rolled me to the NICU to look at her- just look at her. It is a bizarre feeling for a stranger to give you permission to glance at your baby. No touching, just glancing. I felt no spark of recognition, but my heart pressed against my chest when I saw her rooting for the breast, puckering her mouth and searching the empty air.
They wheeled me away, and I waited for a few more hours, until a nurse came, put her on my chest. My baby. I was still drugged, and calm, and wished I could cry happy tears, but it was too late. The moment had passed when my stomach was flayed open and my legs were hefted up on stands and the anesthesiologist with the bushy eyebrows kept holding my head, whispering gentle questions about which body parts I could feel. I could feel none of them, really, and my body was shaking uncontrollably, my husband squeezing my hand and his face so drawn in loving pain that I couldn't look at him without crying.
But here was my daughter four hours later, too late against my chest, the daughter I would have to learn to love on my own, with no help from that post-birth endorphin wave, the daughter who would become fiercely attached to me, fiercely intelligent, fiercely emotional. The daughter who will make me devour parenting books and practice zen Buddhist meditation. The daughter who is much more pleasant in my memory, as she sleeps in her crib in the room next door, her unicorn shoes slipped over her pink footie pajamas, because she demands to wear them to sleep, and even in the bath. The daughter who makes no room for quiet but teaches me much about the earth, the way nature works, works, works without reward.